Ho‘ohana; Your Intentional Work

Preface: I was asked if I would submit an essay on Ho‘ohana for a community-based newspaper which is seeking to redefine the Aloha-based living within that community. The editor has read Managing with Aloha, and in particular our work with Ho‘ohana this month resonated strongly. I was thrilled to do so, and I thought you might want to read a copy of my submission as well for another dose of in-progress coaching with our current month’s study. All of this is likely to sound familiar to you, but as we have learned before, “spaced repetition” can help where-ever you might be with your self-paced self-coaching!

Ho‘ohana; Your Intentional Work

Our value for this month is very dear to my heart. When asked to choose only one value representative of the entire Managing with Aloha movement I choose this one, second only to the value of Aloha itself. This month, I’d like to talk story with you about Ho‘ohana, the value of intentional work.

Hana is the word for ‘work’ in Hawaiian, primarily as a noun. Ho‘o is a prefix of causation, roughly meaning, “to make it happen.” Thus ho‘o turns hana into a very intentional verb, one begging action directed toward the work you do —whatever that work may be, make it happen. I define ‘work’ broadly; it is a word much bigger than ‘task’ or ‘job.’ There are collections of tasks and jobs in the work you do which you would describe as your Ho‘ohana.

This is the connection I feel exists between Aloha and Ho‘ohana, a connection where one strengthens the other;

ALOHA is about you living with authenticity in a world populated with other people. We human beings were not meant to live alone; we thrive in each other’s company. Your Aloha celebrates everything which makes you, YOU. As a very intuitive 17-year old told me once, “I get that; Aloha is me keeping it real.” I loved hearing him; he knew his ‘real’ is good stuff!

HO‘OHANA is about you making your living in our world in the way that gives you daily direction and intention, and leaves you with a feeling of personal fulfillment every day —not just when you have accomplished large goals. Ho‘ohana is not about your job or career, though they may be included within it. Ho‘ohana is about best-possible livelihood in total.

Think of WORK as something you want to get done. With this new definition in mind, Ho‘ohana then includes your work with all your finances, with your church, with your children’s school, with your neighborhood association, and more. Ho‘ohana includes the work you do within your job, within your hobbies, within your studies, and within each of your other values.


Kitten at work found on Flickr by anzaq78.

Note in regard to my Preface:
Photo only included here on Talking Story.

When a person chooses to incorporate Aloha and Ho‘ohana into their working lives, there is no more “going through the motions,” no more “paying my dues” or “earning my stripes,” and no more “biding my time.” All your attentions are somehow connected to your work —even if it is work within a job which is currently temporary for you; Ho‘ohana is work-in-progress. You no longer call it work; you call it “my Ho‘ohana.”

I find that it is very helpful to think about Ho‘ohana work in the context of your ATTENTION and your INTENTION. Together, the partnership of attention/intention is powerful. For instance, if you have read this far, this article is part of your chosen attentions; what is the personal connection for you? What do you intend to get out of it? Are you just reading, or are you reading with Ho‘ohana, and the intention to ‘work it’ until you get something useful out of it? Do you just nalu it (go with the flow) or do you reflect, talk story about Ho‘ohana with a friend or your family so it becomes a new word in your vocabulary, and then try to apply it somehow?

Here is my suggestion: Use the month between this issue and the next one to redefine the word ‘work’ and make it yours: Do so by enlarging it to all of your life’s work. Make any work you do truly yours, and truly worthwhile, with the new language of intention that is Ho‘ohana. You will be living the Hawaiian value of intentional and worthwhile work.

For after all, as foundational as it gets, what is more important than your own life? I love the notion that living with the value of Ho‘ohana is like saying, “Thank you for the gift of my great life.” Don’t you?


Rosa Say is a workplace Aloha coach, and the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. You can learn more about her and the Hawaiian values we share as a community at www.ManagingWithAloha.com.


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